Religion is popular because it satisfies ‘peacemakers and those who want a vengeful God’: researcher
An Ohio State University professor is arguing in a new book that he has found a “scientifically testable” means to determine what makes a person pursue religious beliefs, the science news site Phys.org reported.
“I’m not trying to answer theological questions about the existence or nature of God,” Steven Reiss said. “What I’m trying to answer is the nature of why people embrace religion and God.”
Reiss, a professor emeritus at the school’s psychology department, said that his latest book chronicles the information compiled from 100,000 respondents to a questionnaire he developed, which he calls the Reiss Motivation Profile.
The questionnaire tracks how much respondents value what he called 16 key values, identified as acceptance, curiosity, eating, family, honor, idealism, independence, order, physical activity, power, romance, saving, social contact, status, tranquility and vengeance.
According to Reiss, the key to religion’s appeal is that it can satisfy all 16 desires.
“Religion attracts all kinds, including peacemakers and those who want a vengeful God,” he said, explaining that people can find teachings encouraging them to “turn the other cheek” in some faiths, while also warning them about wrathful Gods.
Similarly, Reiss said, religions offer events appealing to extroverts like festivals, while also offering practices like meditation that can resonate with introverts. The variety of factors behind the appeal of faith, he argued, suggests that people begin following one based on more than the need for a moral code or a means of coping with their own mortality.
“Religion couldn’t achieve mass acceptance if it only fulfilled one or two basic desires,” he said. “People are attracted to religion because it provides believers the opportunity to satisfy all their basic desires over and over again. You can’t boil religion down to one essence.”